Back in my day, there was no Tumblr, no tube sites. I had to seek out smut the old fashioned way — by digging through my dad's closet. You'd think parents would be better at hiding that stuff, but I was able to locate a stack of old Penthouse issues with ease.
The centerfolds were less exciting than I had anticipated. Even pre-Y2K, the still image held little magic to an attention span raised on MTV, but I did find something else in my father's closet: comics. The comics I found were different than the superhero stories I had learned to read from (“POW” and “THWACK” were some of the first words I could spell and recognize). Though the style of artwork mirrored my Saturday morning cartoons, these comics were definitely for adults. I stared aghast at the black-and-white pages, yellowed with age at the corners, depicting Fat Freddy and his Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers on their explorations of free love, rock 'n' roll, and LSD. I learned the word “cunt” while reading a comic about a man who has sex with a female Bigfoot.
The adult comics horrified and delighted me. They were filthy, but they were also fun, creative, and subversive. I didn't quite understand all of it, but I knew that those scraggly little black-and-white drawings felt so much naughtier than the glossy naked women on the magazine pages.
I left the sex comics alone as I aged further into my porn consumption years, but at the recent 2014 Alternative Press Expo (APE) at Fort Mason, I was reminded of just how filthy cartoons can be. The expo focuses on independent artists who are on the forefront of the self-publishing movement. Founded in 1994 by Dan Vado of SLG Publishing, the first event took place in San Jose. But San Francisco has had a long love affair with independent comics (read the story on Last Gasp Books on page 8), and was home to underground comics legends like R. Crumb and Trina Robbins, so it makes sense that APE made this city its official home in 2000.
One of the spotlighted artists at this year's expo was C. Spike Trotman, the mastermind behind SmutPeddler, a new anthology featuring sex-positive comics made by women. Trotman, along with 25 other artists and writers, takes readers on a wild journey into the depths of female fantasy: There's a story about a nerdy virgin who gets deflowered by a buxom witch in lingerie, another about a sexy alien who crash-lands on Earth and forces a young H.G. Wells type to fix his spaceship and then suck his cock. There's nothing typical or expected about these stories.
“I was under the impression for years that I did not like porn,” Trotman told me as we shared sodas and gazed out at Alcatraz. “If there are people who look like me [in porn], it tends to be really degrading fetish porn depicting someone's incredibly misinformed fantasies. And that is anything but a turn-on.”
Frustrated by the mainstream porn she had encountered, Trotman made it her mission to bring diverse, sex-positive, body-positive smut to the masses through the medium she loved best. She launched a crowdfunding campaign for SmutPeddler in 2012 and set her goal at a modest $20,000, hoping the money would enable her to break even on the project. To her pleasant surprise, the campaign cashed out at over $83,000 and the most recent edition raised more than $187,000.
“Porn for women, by women is still in that subversive stage and SmutPeddler gets a lot of attention for being damn near one-of-its-kind,” she says.
Comics are a medium that engages both the reader's eye and the reader's imagination, and SmutPeddler is no exception. The images move, they tell stories that can transcend the limits of what bodies can do on film. As I thumbed through the pages of black ink, I felt the artists' fantasies bleed into my own. It's like reading erotica, fantasizing, and looking at porn all at the same time.
Comics don't need superheroes to be epic (though the anthology does feature a sexy superhero named “Big Booty Jane”). The medium itself lends itself to epic proportions — in the case of SmutPeddler, epic boners.